Dave Hansen Thaxton Editorial
Thaxton Family Accused of Neglect:
Could Carbon Monoxide Poisoning do this to YOUR Family?

David Hansen  6 April 04  (edited & expanded by TLR 5/9/04)  To David Hansen's draft


Dan Thaxton, Jr., right, passed away October 2, 2001 at the age of 2 years, 5 months. Dan Sr. and Carolee Thaxton had purchased their Bountiful home in October 1999 when Dan Jr. was six months old.  Any sicknesses the family had before October 2001 seemed like regular sicknesses at the time. When Dan Sr. came into his son's room the morning of October 2nd, Dan's body was cold to the touch and had clearly been dead for a few hours. The state medical examiner diagnosed him with myocardia, which is an inflammatory virus that causes heart failure. The case was closed and the Thaxton's went about their lives.

Matthew was born May 2002. 

Through late spring
and summer
Matthew developed robustly, 
bright and happy.

About November following, Matthew began to be pale in color. It wasn't terribly noticeable until about Christmastime. Thaxton's took him to Wee-Care in Layton. Doctors checked his vitals and determined he was fine, so they did a blood test and found his red/white and platelet cell count low. Doctors thought this odd and referred them to Davis North Hospital where another blood test was performed to verify the accuracy of the first test. It was accurate, so Thaxtons then returned to Wee-Care, which in turn referred them to Primary Childrens Medical Center (PCMC).

In January 2003, doctors at PCMC performed more tests, including continuous blood counts (CBC's), and suspected he may have leukemia. They kept him there a few days and then did more extensive testing, including a bone marrow biopsy. The tests for leukemia came back negative. 

Two crucial tests doctors did NOT run were a Carboxy-Hemaglobin check, which would have detected any carbon monoxide poisoning, and a swallowing barium test, which would have detected a swallowing disorder known as dysphagia that would also have pointed to carbon monoxide poisoning. During this time doctors performed a blood transfusion on Matthew.

While conversing with doctors, the Thaxtons volunteered that they followed a strict vegan diet (no animal products whatsoever). Doctors did more blood tests and discovered a deficiency in vitamin B-12 and iron. They determined that it was these deficiencies that were causing Matthew's sickness and recommended that the Thaxton's have additional testing at an outpatient clinic. Those tests showed his B-12 and iron deficiencies were decreasing, and that his body could produce the B-12. 

Doctors at PCMC released Matthew to his parents under the care of his primary physician, and Matthew continued to improve between January and April. On the last visit in April with Matthew's primary care physician, the doctor told the Thaxtons he would not have to see Matthew for another six months. 

On June 1, 2003, Carolee and the kids had come down with a bad flu. Matthew had it for two or three days and started to breath somewhat erratically, so the Thaxtons took him back to Wee-Care. Matthew was life-flighted to PCMC, and for one and a half days doctors could not figure out the problem. Doctors then looked back into Matthew's medical records and determined that it must be the B-12 deficiency again. The Thaxton's told doctors that it was the flu, but the doctors didn't want to hear it and told them it was the diet, not the flu.

That began the nightmare.

On June 9, 2003 DCFS social workers arrived and told the Thaxtons they were taking Matthew and putting him in foster care with a family member on Dan's side of the family. Although hospital social workers (who have an office right in PCMC) had visited with the Thaxtons previous to their taking Matthew, this was still a shock to Dan and Carolee. 

The Thaxtons were not allowed to leave the hospital unit with Matthew, whereas before, they were allowed to tour the hospital and take him outside. No longer could they bring him food, and hospital officials began weaning him (he was one year old at the time) and putting him on formula. Matthew, though, wouldn't take a bottle and required a tube to be fed. Doctors held Matthew in the hospital for 2-1/2 weeks.

DCFS officials allowed the Thaxtons to visit Matthew while he was in the hospital. After DCFS got involved, Matthew's room was changed three times, his nurses and doctors changed multiple times, and hospital officials wouldn't talk to or provide information to the Thaxtons. "They seemed cold to us," Carolee said. Beginning from this time and to the present, DCFS also required monthly visitations at the Thaxton's home to check up on all of the Thaxton's children.

On the morning of June 20, 2003, Carolee had been at the hospital and then returned home to shower. A DCFS social worker called Dan Sr. and told him to tell his wife not to bother coming back in to the hospital, and that Matthew had been released to Dan's sister, 60 miles away and adversarial, a release Dan Sr. and Carolee did not approve of. They had wanted Matthew to be released to Carolee's sister only 2 miles away and supportive. This shocked then--again. Carolee's mother suggested that Clay Christiansen, Carolee's father, call the hospital to verify whether Matthew had been released. Clay got through to Matthew's room, but Carolee's sister's husband answered, so Clay hung up. 

The Thaxton's called their then attorney Matthew Hilton who recommended that they go to the hospital and attempt to see Matthew. Carolee, Clay, and her mother and sister went to PCMC to see Matthew. At the unit, Carolee used the phone to inform the nurses station they were there. The nurse answered, "Matthew who?" "I'm here to see my son," Carolee said. The nurse put her on hold, then returned and told Carolee that she could not see him. "Why," Carolee asked. "DCFS won't allow it", the nurse said. Carolee and her family went home at that point.

On June 13, 2003 doctors determined that Matthew also had dysphagia, a swallowing disorder. The nurse informed the Thaxtons of this diagnosis and told them he could have been born with it.

Matthew was released from the hospital to Dan's relatives the afternoon of June 21, 2003.

A few days thereafter in the trama of having their baby Matthew removed,  Diane and Carolee went to get answers relative to the irrational nutritional abuse charge from a friend Thomas L Rodgers, who's experience and knowledge about their own diet choices as Vegetarians was broadly known and respected among prominent media and art performers.  Mr Rodgers immediately became a vinous advocate who attempted to educate their defense attorney, and provided peer reviewed AMA medical support for their diet. But the Medical establishment of this State, Intermountain Health Care (IHC) through its Primary Children's Medical Center (PCMC), UUMC, DCFS and their Safe and Healthy Families (SHF) arm had spoken, and could not afford challenge to their diagnosis. So they ignored good research and correcting second opinions, and so they viciously  pursued prosecution of the parents with out impunity or rational caution.

Through two indicting hearings the collusion of DCFS, the State Medical Examiner (who botched Dan Jr's post mortum exam), SHF and PCMC all shielded behind the Attorney General they locked out reason and manipulated law to charge the Thaxtons with nutritional and now medical neglect. Mr Rodgers continued with them through the hearing and attempted to pursue and provide good research to exonerate the family -- but it was never argued. Their own defense Attorney in prejudice sided with the prosecution and did not present effective or reasoned argument for the Thaxtons (He even claimed he was going to save all Vegetarians from their unhealthy practices! and they would all thank him!) So the family were "guilty" and their Matthew was not coming home!

In the pain of the hearings and the bogus presented "dependency" demanded upon the rest of their family (Marilee, Sarah and any future pregnancies and no indication of Matthew's return) the Thaxtons and Christiansen poured out their anguish with Tom Rodgers. Mr Rodgers felt something was not fitting in the whole story around their loss and experience, and not having access to medical records (until months later), asked them to spend time with him to rehearse their whole life story around their marriage to their first son Dan Jr's death, then through Matthew's birth and development, to the current malaise and trauma that precipitated his removal from them. 

For the next week, every day Mr Rodgers listened to their story; from marriage, birth of Marilee, Sarah, Dan Jr. their new home purchase, and their experiences up to Dan Jr's death, Matthew birth and experience again to his malaise and PCMC DCFS "abduction".
As the days of experience rehearsal unfolded Mr Rodgers realized he was hearing familiar symptoms he had hear before in his science and experience. Subtle asphyxiation poisoning! So on Friday, having never been to the young Thaxton family's home, Mr Rodgers asked to be taken to their house. 

That  August day, the real culprit was certifiably now determined. What doctors, police, paramedics, the coroner, and a homicide detective missed in October 1999, this now committed friend of the family, Tom Rodgers, verified visually as soon as he drove up to the home: the exhaust from the furnace (which most untrained or inexperience people thought was a dryer vent), vented right out the front of the house within 11 inches of a fresh air intake vent to the furnace/water heater closet, and through louvered door into the home

Compounding the problem was the prevailing winds off of the Bountiful foothills, which created high pressure on the east side of the home, forcing carbon monoxide gas into the fresh air vent and thus into the home. Video (or click here for higher quality Windows Media File image requiring broadband or a longer load time) shows the dangerous exhaust gasses being emitted and then being pushed back into the air intake vent and inside the home.

Not only had the Thaxtons had a licensed home inspector check the furnace when they first purchased the home, but they also had a carbon monoxide detector installed in the hall outside the bedrooms. The detector, in fact, finally did go off the morning police arrived to investigate Dan Jr.'s death--but only AFTER Dan Jr. had died. According to Dan Thaxton, police left the doors open during the investigation, and when the home was checked for carbon monoxide fumes, the fumes had already disbursed. It is curious that a detector would go off AFTER a child died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Is it possible that these detectors are not calibrated properly to protect the most vulnerable, infants, from low-level effects of CO poisoning. After the CO check came up clean, nobody gave CO poisoning another thought until Tom Rodgers identified the symptoms and source.

Carolee later learned that dysphagia can cause malnutrition, which if left untreated will cause death. Also, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning is known to cause dysphagia. (Carolee was pregnant with Matthew during the winter of 2002/2003 and Matthew would have been exposed to CO poisoning then.)

Until Feb. 3, 2004, the Thaxtons had supervised visitation once to twice a week for two hours per visit, and later the number of visits went up to three per week. Matthew was also allowed to visit Carolee's sister on most weekends where Carolee and Dan were allowed supervised visits with him there. Supervision required that a relative be present at all times.

On Christmas eve, Matthew was allowed to return home for an unsupervised visit until Christmas afternoon.

On January 20, 2004, the Thaxton family's attorney, Jay Kessler, attempted a motion to Judge Kathleen Nelsen for a mistrial in order to present the carbon monoxide information. Judge Nelson recused herself, refused to hear the evidence, and told Kessler that this case would be handled by Judge Stanton Taylor.

Matthew, with sisters, Sarah and Marylee

On Feb. 2, 2004, Judge Nelson allowed Matthew to return home with certain stipulations. The custody arrangement is legally considered temporary until August 2004, at which time the judge will determine if the placement of Matthew with his family will be permanent. The judge also required that the Thaxtons had to continue to take Matthew and their two girls, Marylee (8) and Sarah (7), to Dr. Lisa Sampson-Fang at doctor-specified intervals. DCFS is attempting to institute a "service plan", but the Thaxton's have refused to sign it, but are, nevertheless, doing what the judge ordered. The Thaxtons also must continue to submit to a monthly visit from a DCFS social worker.

On March 3, 2004, Judge Taylor heard the new evidence regarding the CO poisoning, but still refused a new trial.

The Thaxton's are still appealing for anew trial and to have the child neglect charges (negligent "homocide" as DCFS's "substantiated" neglect, nutritional neglect, medical neglect) dismissed.

Case Workers Visit 29 April 2004

On April 29, I was invited by Dan to attend the monthly visit by DCFS case worker Cindy Barker at the home of Carolee's parents, Clay and Diane Christianson. I arrived a little early. Also present were Tom Rodgers, Martin King (a friend of mine), Dan Thaxton Sr., Matthew (soon to be two years old), and the Thaxton's two daughters, Marylee and Sarah. Carolee Thaxton, Dan's wife, was sick and did not attend this meeting.

Matthew, despite having pink eye (going around right now in Bountiful), was running around like any normal two-year-old. His deep-set, dark eyes beamed as he played "catch-me" with his dad.

The social worker, Cindy Barker, arrived a few minutes late. She's apparently assigned to high profile cases. High profile cases are those in which a death is involved and DCFS may have wronged the family. Cindy had fairly long blond hair, was tall, thin, and wore a black pant suit. She wore two gaudy bracelets, had two equally gaudy rings on her left hand, and two smaller rings on her right hand. She took a seat near one (the oldest) of two baby grand pianos belonging to the Christiansens.

Because of the furnace problem, the Thaxtons have chosen not to move back into their home until inspectors from Carrier Furnace company and Mountain Fuel have inspected the furnace's installation. Nobody knows who mis-installed the furnace (the home has had two previous owners), and the furnace is a newer model high efficiency design that can be vented out the side of the home if requirements of window, door and vents or other structure openings are distanced per Manufactures and National codes.

Cindy carried a three-inch black binder, which she used to take notes of the conversation. She wrote down the names of everyone present, and then told Dan that she had two subjects she wanted to cover.

First was the name of the family therapist the Thaxtons were to see. The judge ordered family therapy but only specified that it had to be done by August. No particular number of visits was specified. Dan told Cindy that he was considering a therapist and was taking care of the requirement. Cindy asserted that she wanted the therapy to begin very soon, and that if the Thaxton's didn't like the service plan they should consult their attorney.

The second item Cindy broached regarded Matthew's "slow" speech development. One therapist, a Maria, recommended an "extensive" plan. She claims Matthew is "severely delayed in speech and language." The plan requires twice a week visits, with $20 co-payments, for a three year duration. This therapist has only seen Matthew once and claims that kids his age (23 months old) should be saying some 300 words a day. Matthew was shy and clingy during the visit with the therapist. Dan told me later that although Matthew doesn't say much, he's extremely intelligent and knows how to operate all of the electronic buttons on their sound/audio system. He's also repeating words if he wants to. As an alternative to the three-year plan, Cindy recommended as an alternative an "early intervention" plan that cost $40 a month.

Cindy gave Dan a Release of Information form, which she wanted Dan to sign so that the therapy information could be shared with DCFS. Dan took it and told her he would first have to have his lawyer look at it. Dan also asked her why the therapy release form included all three kids, and not just Matthew. Cindy responded that he didn't have to use that release form and could use one recommended by his lawyer.

Cindy then asked about the vitamin supplements being required for Matthew. The type that Matthew was originally taking had been discontinued, Dan told Cindy, so he had procured another type that was similar in nutrients. "What kind?" Cindy asked. Dan didn't remember the name, so Cindy asked him to retrieve the bottle. A while later Dan found them and handed them to Cindy, who looked intently at the label and make some notes in her black binder. A new liquid form of the original formula will be used in the future, Dan told her.

Cindy confirmed that Matthew was still receiving his Iron and B-12 supplements. Dan's two daughters are no longer getting vitamin injections. A doctor's follow-up is scheduled for May 24th, Dan told her.

At this point Cindy asked to talk to the girls. "Alone," Dan asked? "Yes, alone," Cindy said. "No, you can't talk to them alone," Dan told her. Cindy told Dan that is was part of their standard protocol to talk to the children in private, as she had done before. Dan had been late on the previous DCFS visit, and Cindy, without asking permission, followed Sarah downstairs and talked alone with her. Cindy made a note of Dan's objection to her talking alone with his daughters in her big black book and told Dan that she would turn that information over to a lawyer, and "they can do with it what they may."

Cindy then interviewed the two girls with all of us present. "Have you been eating OK?" Tom told Cindy that she looked a little gaunt and that she should eat with the Thaxton's. Cindy didn't laugh.

"How's school?" Cindy continued, "what are you learning?"  Addition, subtraction, and their favorite thing to do was to read, the girls answered. Their favorite books were Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, and Green Eggs and Ham. The girls are also both in ballet lessons and wear butterfly costumes. Sara was the bravest and did some spins and a few short leaps to demonstrate, giggling as she passed her father, who sat on the landing. Matthew came up to his dad from behind, grabbed him by the neck and tried to pull him over backwards.

Tom then asked Cindy whether she saw, in light of the new CO evidence, that the direction DCFS was mandating was wrong. Cindy responded that she "trusts that the judge has enough experience and wisdom to make a good decision." Tom told her that the real problem should be looked at. If carbon monoxide was the real culprit, then shouldn't DCFS change the therapy requirements?

Cindy asked, "What can I do about it? Carbon monoxide wasn't part of the adjudication. But if it were shown, then DCFS would require a new furnace." Cindy admitted she didn't have a background in heating and air conditioning and doesn't know if the furnace setup is dangerous. She added that she would not waste time on this issue, as she trusts the medical experts. She can't "change anything or do anything."

Tom followed up and asked her whether she was not "scratching her head about the furnace." She responded that she sides with DCFS, but she didn't have time to go through the "stacks and stacks of stuff" on this case. She said that she was put on this case "after the fact," and that she "can't do anything about it." She suggested that the Thaxtons call Dateline or 20/20 and get the media involved in it.

    So, there you have it. The only justice DCFS provides is a recommendation to go to Dateline or 20/20 to apply national pressure. How many of the hundreds of families being abused by state DCFS-type agencies nationwide will get this kind of attention?

The Thaxton's only desire is to be exonerated of charges that they are responsible for Dan Jr.'s death and to be free of the intrusive visits of DCFS case workers which still threaten to take Matthew away if the Thaxtons do not abide by the judge's orders and a service plan that they have not signed.

List of DCFS/medical abuses and failures:

Force weaning a child and forced-tube feeding, when any physician knows that breast feeding is nutritionally superior to any other feeding regimen; the fact is that children under 1 year are all pretty much vegans: eating formula, breast milk, and perhaps cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Forced separation of a child from his/her parents is abuse. Unless the child's safety is jeopardized and due process has been provided for parents, children should remain in the parents' home. In this case it should have been obvious that the Thaxtons cared for their children and had attempted to obtain medical services. In-home care could have been provided, which would have eased the separation anxiety Matthew no doubt suffered when yanked from his parents' care. At the very least, Dan Jr. should have been placed with the family member of the family's choice.

Doctors neglecting to perform tests to determine if carbon monoxide could be the culprit.

Neither should doctors be under threat of criminal punishment for not reporting every "possible" case of neglect or abuse.

The judge's refusal to consider evidence regarding carbon monoxide poisoning.

Besmirching the names of innocent parents.

Denying parents due process, the right to trial by jury, etc.

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